Since Zhang Qian’s missions to the Western Regions, resources and products from countries in the Western Regions entered the inland of China in large quantities. The Ferghana horse introduced during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty was one of the most famous breeds. This excellent stallion is heavyset, with slender legs and well-developed chest, neck and buttocks. In addition other animal species such as elephants, lions, and ostrich were also introduced to the inland in time. In terms of plants, more than several dozens of varieties were introduced to the eastern inland areas, including grapes, alfalfa, flax, beans, garlic, cucumber, walnuts, onion and almond, Indian pepper, Anxi’s pomegranates also entered China. In particular the introduction of cotton to the inland areas produced a far-reaching impact on China’s economic development and people’s livelihood.
Cotton was originally grown in India and Africa. In China the earliest cotton growing area was found in Xinjiang region. By Eastern Han Dynasty at the latest, Xinjiang was already engaged in cotton growing, spinning yarns and weaving cotton fabrics. Before cotton was introduced to China, the traditional Chinese clothing materials were fur, silk and linen. In Tang Dynasty, after the Tang troops put down the Gaochang unrest, they brought cotton seeds to the inland to grow. This was how cotton was gradually introduced in other parts of the Central Plains. Now the earliest existing cotton relic from the Central Plains was a cotton blanket found in a Southern Song Dynasty tomb. By Yuan Dynasty, cotton became the major clothing materials for people of the Central Plains.